The Readings: Judges 4:4-23; Acts 1:15-26; Matthew 27:55-66
King Jabin has 900 chariots of iron, which is 900 more than Barak son of Abinoam has. 900 reasons for discouragement or despair, and if those are our current demons, Barak’s story is just what the doctor ordered.
If we have the bandwidth for additional issues, we might wonder about Jael’s “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear.” In the early stories deception is a not uncommon tactic (Abraham, Rebekah, the Hebrew midwives, David, etc.); how might we think about this? Lopsided power relations seem to affect the moral calculus, with something of the trickster (e.g., Br’er Rabbit) in, say, Jacob. Churchill: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” But from about the exile (586 BC) onwards deception seems to fade as a tactic, not because the heroes become more virtuous, but perhaps because innocent suffering is reimagined as potentially redemptive (the servant in Isa 40-55, Daniel, the Maccabean martyrs).
There is a delicious irony in Matthew’s text. Joseph of Arimathea and “the chief priests and the Pharisees” (yes, an odd combination) have quite different agendas, but share the same assumption, that Jesus will stay dead. Even King Jabin’s 900 chariots wouldn’t have helped with that one.